Without the customary selfie, many may have missed the start of this new chapter, Graduate School. I am attending the School of the Art institute of Chicago for a Masters in Art Education. This first week was a whirlwind of syllabi, google mapping, excruciatingly long readings and the return of personal insecurities. Will I make friends? Can everyone tell I'm lost and clueless? Am I smart enough, creative enough... good enough? As a graduate student, everyone assumes you have it all together: that you know the campus, the customs, the ins and outs. In reality, we are all new to this like any freshman.
Day 1 was marked by a bubbly undergrad orientation leader coming over to me as I quickly ate lunch.
"Are you a freshman," she asked eagerly, expecting a new mentee.
"No. I am a graduate student," the crisp air and disdain coated my voice.
Even still, she insisted on walking me to class because I must have appeared quite lost ( I wasn't actually at that moment).
I walked towards my art history course with comfort in the familiarity. It was a survey course and my 8th in the long string of college level Art History courses. It should be a cake walk! The first discussion left me intimidated and bewildered but with a revived competitiveness. (I can now say the second class was much better!) It is interesting how a difficult situation often makes humans just work harder, we have a drive to be the best for better or for worst.
In this new academia world, full of art people, creative thinkers and individuals, the typically stand outs are just one of the blur. Pink hair is the norm. I have seen more man buns this week then I care to take account of. I find myself grasping and holding onto my identity with everything I do, say or wear. I am one of the minority: I am southern, I am a practicing Protestant Christian, and I am on the conservative side of the spectrum and I am proud. I find myself asking many questions about my personal identity and identity in general. Should I immerse myself in the dress and look in order to experience and immerse myself in urban culture? Are my traditions hindering me? Is it bad that I refuse to change? Will the new location alter my identity significantly even if only a 2 year excursion after 22 other formative years? What are other peoples identities around me? How do we relate?
The introspection and focus on identity is an aspect of graduate school I did not expect. It is another way in which grad life is about balance.
In the art ed program we have begun to look at culture and identity as a way to understand a community and be able to relate to them. You must understand people and build trust in order to teach them. In the same way, I think you must understand where your teacher and peers are coming from to build respect and be able to learn.
This is one of the beauties of art education. Through art you can communicate and put a piece of yourself out for the world the see. You self-reflect, become vulnerable, grow and learn through the creative process. As an art teacher, I hope to instill the importance of self reflection and the drive to make in my students in hopes that it will build confidence and problem solving, skills that go much farther than the classroom. I am realizing that my observation and experiences as a student, even at the graduate level, will inform my habits and understandings as a teacher.